tonight on "nightline" -- heavyweight surgery. it's a radical approach to losing the fat, long reserved for only the heaviest patients. but now lap band surgery could be available to millions more americans. but is this really the answer to our obesity epidemic? finned invaders. they're huge and they leap at boats. and if they hit you, they can knock you out. but now asian carp are threatening to take over. we go full contact fishing. and ending treatment. eliz bet edwards is surrounded by loved ones at home as she shares difficult news about her cancer.
good evening, everyone. i'm bill weir. last year, there was only one state in the nation colorado with an obesity rate under 20%. shocking. especially when you consider just 14 years ago, there were zero states with a 20% obesity rate. the epidemic has spawned an aggressive search for new treatments, including different forms of surgery that radically alter the way patients eat food. expanding one such surgery to millions more patients. at least three days a week, come sun or bitter massachusetts cold, rashita gets out of bed before work and jogs three miles. every meal of every day she obsesses over avoiding sugar. >> my snacks consist of water
crackers and cheese. >> reporter: with this kind of discipline, she has lost 55 pounds over the past five years, a routine not driven by vanity but fear. you see, back when she was a self-described big girl, she learned that aside from the aches and pains, her weight had also given her chronic diabetes. >> i remember my endocrine nologist telling me, you're going to lose your toes. i got great toes. i didn't want to lose my toes. so i started walking. >> reporter: but she could only manage to lose a few pounds and started researching her surgical options. the procedures where a doctor cuts away part of the stomach or reroutes the intestines frightened her. then a process that uses an inflatable silicone band. it is reversible. so she got excited. >> when i heard about the lap band, i says bingo, that will help me, that will absolutely
help me. >> reporter: but she wasn't big enough to qualify for the surgery. and so her walking turned to more urgent running. since the lap band came to america, a 5'7" woman with health problems like rashida needed to be 170 pounds to meet standards. an advisory panel recommended lowering that number to 191, a drop of more than 30 pounds. much to delight of shareholders in allergan, the company that makes the best-selling band, the new standards would make this surgery an option for another 27 million americans. and while obesity experts we talked to aren't delighted that it has come to this, they'll take all the help they can get. >> i think every treatment that we can bring to bear is a value in helping to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic. about a third of the increased cost of health care over the past 20 years is due to the
increased weight of americans. and let's be realistic, are we going to be able to stop this problem with diet and exercise in its tracks right now? the answer is no. >> reporter: the doctor believes that treating big people before they get much bigger is a logical step for a nation drowning in medical costs. >> we believe it will cost about $15,000 to $20,000 for this procedure. it costs about $13,000 a year to take care of someone with diabetes. >> reporter: rashida is a perfect example. if she'd had a successful lap band procedure, she may not need to give herself daily expensive shots in her abdomen to control her diabetes. if you're among the millions now wondering if this procedure is your ticket to slimmer health, a few numbers to consider. 9 in 10 complain of painful side effects like vomiting or reflux. 3 in 10 eventually have it
reversed. nevada's dr. robert rut ledge takes to youtube to make his case against the lap band. >> when lap bands fail, they can fail a lot of ways. >> reporter: with surgical videos and patient testimonials. this woman claims she couldn't digest healthy food with a lap band but junk food went down just fine. >> burgers go down very well. >> reporter: so it is one reason some people actually gain weight after lap band surgery. although the company points to a study where a majority of subjects lost on average 30% of their excess weight after a year. >> if it shrinks the stomach to the size of an egg, why don't they slim all the way down? >> that's a great question. and the answer is, that your body is fighting as hard as it can to stop you from losing weight. it makes you lose your sense of fullness. so you start thinking about foods you may not have thought about in a long time. sweet foods. or crumbly foods.
they'll start drinking sweet liquids. and we tend to blame them for doing this but the fact is, it's the body's way of trying to survive. it thinks that there's a famine and you're trying to survive. >> reporter: there's the attitude in america that obesity is a lifestyle choice, a lack of willpower, more salad, run around the block, you know, that you should fix yourself. why is that attitude wrong? >> we've grossly oversimplified the problem of obesity. obesity is the most complex chronic metabolic illness there is. >> reporter: here's the rub -- while the self-control stigma rules the day, experts say metabolism is so complex the latest surgery or diet regiment can't possibly work for everyone. >> for example, if you have exercise and too low of a diet, that can actually lower your metabolic weight and lead to
weight gain or more rapid rebound weight gain when you change your diet. so you're ordering your body's chemistry, your body's metabolism, which then can actually be detrimental sometimes in certain situations. >> reporter: so in the end, the discipline that helped her lose 55 pounds may not work for you. but the allure a magic bullet works on just about everyone. even with all the warnings and disclaimers, some people intentionally gain weight to qualify for lap band surgery, others wear ankle weights to tip the scale at their exams. even though she is once again too small for lap band surgery, rashida is convinced it would help her lose another 25 pounds, nip her diabetes for good and add another 20 years to her life. >> i have not yet reached my goal weight. so yeah, i would still have the surgery if i could. >> meanwhile, as they expand surgeries, fda advisory panels have been much more conservative about approving diet drugs.
they rejected two this year and put out a tepid early review of a third this week. when we come back, flying fish. except these asian carp were never meant to leave the water or invade america. oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooook i'm off to the post office... ok. uh, a little help... oh! you know shipping is a lot easier with priority mail flat rate boxes. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. plus, you can print and pay for postage online. and i can pick them up for free with package pickup. perfect! cause i'm gonna need a lot of those. wow! i knew i should have brought my sleigh. priority mail flat rate shipping starts at $4.90 only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship. the rate board seems to be acting funny. watch.
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in the ocean, but recent days have brought a new scaly threat to midwestern rivers where fish leaping from the water kamikaze-style can bloody your nose or worse. it's an entertaining spectacle but as chris bury reports, the acrobatic asian carp is a serious threat. >> reporter: on the illinois river, foreign invaders are taking over. >> they're all over! >> reporter: seizing more territory every day. you may have seen the amazing pictures. a youtube sensation. those asian silver carp leaping from the water. >> what's strange about the silver carp is they jump. just a vibration of the prop, the motion of the boat, disturbing the water, causes these fish to jump up into the air. >> reporter: smacking boaters are such force -- that they draw
blood and break bones. >> one of the big ones got me right in the face. >> there have been people knocked off of jet skis, broken noses. >> reporter: every summer, a tournament is held to catch them -- >> ya-hoo! >> reporter: -- in every conceivable way. but as amusing as they appear, the high-flying fish are a dangerous threat that comes from two kinds of asian carp. the smaller silver ones that jump and big head carp that grow up to 100 pounds, eating so much plankton in the food chain that native fish cannot survive, multiplying so fast that more than 4,000 carp infest every mile in parts of this river. there is the highest density of asian carp in the world in the illinois river. that's including their native habitats in china. >> reporter: that's frightening. >> it's astounding. >> reporter: no one is more frightened than fishermen in the
great lakes where sport and commercial fishing is a $7 billion a year industry. >> it's the single largest part of our economy up here, hand's down. that's good. we lost this fishery here, you'd be looking at a ghost town around here. would be disastrous for the area. >> once they're in lake michigan, there's nothing to stop them from going to lake superior, lake erie, lake houron. the whole system will be overrun by these fish. >> reporter: they feel the carp who have no farm predators, will wipe out the salmon, perch, trout and wall eye that now dominate these waters. the carp could be a catastrophe. >> if these fish are successful in the lake, they will literally put my sport fishing business out of business. >> reporter: the risk is so real the stakes so high, that the obama administration appointed a so-called carp czar to marshal government forces. >> there's never been an effort this big to try to stop one of
the great lakes invasive species. this is a really large well orchestrated effort. these carp are bad news. we need everybody's help to stop them. >> reporter: so how did such an invasive species get here in the first place? >> well, carp certainly didn't swim here from china. we brought him here for really good reasons. for cleaning catfish ponds as an alternative to chemicals. >> reporter: but they escaped during arkansas flooding in the 1970s, entering the mississippi river system up to the illinois. now a fierce battle is under way to stop their steady advance to the great lakes. >> let's talk about what the corps is doing overall to help deal with the challenge of invasive species. >> reporter: colonel vincent served three tours in iraq. now he commands the last line of defense against the asian carp 35 miles south of chicago. the army corps of engineers has built an electrical fish barrier. it zaps the carp along a
1,200-foot long electrical field. >> it's like me giving them a right jab. it's how hard i hit 'em. it's how many times in a minute i hit 'em. >> reporter: so you're pulsing this electricity? >> i'm pumicing the electricity out into the waterway and the fish don't like it. >> reporter: but biologists david lodge, hired to track the advancing carp, discovered the barrier doesn't keep out all the invaders. >> what we found, to our horror and amazement, was that the fish were actually much further north, much closer to lake michigan, than previously thought. >> reporter: in fact, they found dna evidence that the carp had moved up the illinois river into the canals and waterways that connect with lake michigan. the dna showed traces of carp 45 miles beyond where the army corps believed it to be. only six miles from entering the great lakes. what was your reaction when you found out how close these carp were? >> i was almost sick to my stomach. >> reporter: then in june confirmation.
this 19-pound asian carp, nearly three feet long, was caught in lake calumet. it empties directly into lake michigan. >> the capture of a bighead carp in lake calumet is the first time a asian carp had been captured north of the electric barriers, close to lake michigan. >> reporter: a single fish or two does not inevitably lead to a big breeding population so the army corps remains confident its electric fort will kill the enemy. are you winning the war? >> we're in good position to win the war. >> reporter: also a new slogan. >> if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em. >> reporter: a new deal with china brokered by illinois governor quinn will send more than 30 million pounds of carp back to asia where it remains a delicacy. a bonanza for fish processors like this one in thompson, illinois.
>> look at that, ah, is that a fish. >> reporter: in new orleans, chef phillipe is trying to get americans hooked on the menu he calls the carp silver fin. >> the simple solution is, eat the fish. >> reporter: but eating them won't solve the crisis. so michigan and four other states filed a lawsuit to close the canals where they enter lake michigan, hoping that would finally stop the asian carp. last week, a federal judge, siding with illinois concerns about the shipping industry, said no. so great lakes fishermen remain on edge. >> i'm scared. i'm scared. i've seen what's happened to other places. >> reporter: and, as in a low-budget horror flick, the carp keep coming, flying their way up the river, moving faster it seems clear, than anyone who can stop them. i'm chris bury for "nightline" in romeoville, illinois. >> just stunning to see. thanks to chris bury for that report. when we come back, go from fish
cbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcbcb the glimpse into the wild that nature film provide usually captures one mating season or one great migration. it is rare we get close enough to a truly wild animal to feel the drama of its fight for survival season after season, year after year. now, one filmmaker has done it.
vicki mabrey reports. >> reporter: it was a 17-year love affair. john vardy, wildlife photographer, riding the range in south africa's game reserve, on the trail of his leopard queen. >> she unlocked the secret world of the animal to me. >> reporter: first, a baby. it seems unfazed by humans. he can't believe he can get so close. what he and his trackers have is a rare front row seat over the course of almost two decades into the often solitary, stealthy, kill or be killed world of one of the most hauntingly beautiful animals on earth. strong, agile and fast, leopards are the smallest of the big cats. though they're big hunters, they, do, are hunted. only one of every two baby leopards survives to adulthood.
when the mother's out chasing food, the cubs make easy prey for larger animals or even for male leopards who often kill their rival's offspring. and there are other dangers as well. when she and two of her cubs develop a deadly form of mange, vardy does something controversial to people in his provision. he intervenes. knowing there's a simple life-saving treatment, he darts mannana and the babies. it gives mannana 14 more years of life. and it's not an easy life. there are hyenas to outwit. stronger, more powerful lions, gangs to her solitary prowl. and the difficulty to give birth to cubs who die more often than not. from eight litters, vardy says only four of mannana's offspring survive to adulthood.
mannanna loses two litters to competing male leopards. then, to ensure the survival of her next litter, she endures two separate mating cycles. it is both painful and tedious. leopards mate every 15 minutes for five days. mannanna does this with one, then crosses to the other side of her territory to mate with his rival. each male, she hopes, will think the cubs are his and let them live. after all that, she gives birth to only one cub, leaving this little one especially vulnerable when his mother is away. when she returns and the baby is gone, the culprit is not a jealous male leopard but in this case an african rock python with an obvious bulge. mannanna attacks repeatedly and won't give up till the snake regurnl tats her baby. >> i thought mannana would go
after that python and kill it. but there was no act of revenge. all she wanted was her tiny cub back. >> reporter: survival takes cunning and stealth and luck. mannanna had all three for a long time. longer than most of her species. by the time she's in her mid-teens, about 80 in human years, she's barely making it. stalking scraps from other predators. unable to hunt much for herself. >> okay, my great lady. >> reporter: maybe it's because age is catching up or maybe after 17 years of his near constant presence, she's not afraid of vardy. not long after that, he and the trackers could no longer find her. >> this incredible leopard is gone. i feel so privileged to have known her. >> reporter: mannana lived to the magnificent old age of 17.
this is vicki mabrey for "nightline." >> "leopard queen" premieres tomorrow night, tuesday, december 7th, on national geographic wild. thanks to vicki mabrey for that. when we come back, a final thought for you. first, here's jimmy. >> tonight, mila kunis is here, ian somerhalder is with us. and social distortion. ig